I love a story that turns a concept upside down. And that’s what People Are Wild (Alfred A. Knopf, 2022) by Margaux Meganck does. Instead of the story being told from a child looking at animals, the animals are looking at people.
Words and art are a great match. It’s hard to choose a favorite spread because I loved them so much. I also like the variety of animals and how there is more information about them after the story ends. It’s nice to see diversity in the human characters too.
This is Margaux’s first picture book she has illustrated and written. Previously, she illustrated Kathy Wolff’s All We Need.
How can you resist that cover? Because of the Rabbit (Scholastic Press, 2019) by Cynthia Lord is a fun and helpful book. Everyone at one point struggles with feeling different and will be encouraged by this story.
Emma, who has previously been homeschooled, is now going to public school in fifth grade. Will she fit in? Will she make friends? Getting paired on an assignment with a kid who definitely does not fit in is not her plan. But rabbits are supposed to be lucky, right?
I love the rabbit facts at the beginning of each chapter. And it’s great that Emma’s father is a game warden.
Cynthia is the 2007 Newbery winning author of Rules. See the rest of her books here. Read more about her here–don’t miss the part about giving herself nightmares! And you can see her rabbits and other pets.
I loved Mighty Inside (Levine Querido, 2021) by Sundee T. Frazier. With discussions on segregation, relocation camps, Korean War, Jewish culture, and more, this book gives a great picture of life in the mid-50s is a very realistic way. It shows how determination, music, and friendship can change a kid’s life. If you like underdog stories, you won’t want to miss this book.
I also love the author’s writing itself. Here are a few favorite phrases: “the ball had been a side dish to a dinner-sized dose of humiliation” and “his tongue was so tenderized it was practically filet mignon.” These touches of humor help us through difficult topics.
Melvin Robinson is getting ready to go to high school–that can be scary for anyone. But with his stutter he just knows he’s going to be “dead meat.” His life is even more complicated by being black in a mostly white school in Spokane, WA. When his brother comes to his defense against some bullies, it’s not the white kids who have to clean up the resulting mess but the “Negroes.” For Melvin learning to communicate becomes more and more important–there’s the girl he likes, the bully he needs to stand up to, the terrible death of Emmett Till, and a chance to talk through music. Can Melvin show he deserves respect?
Anyone who has ever had difficulty speaking up will especially enjoy this historical novel. As my book recommendation did last month, it obviously deals with racism. So sad we are still seeing people experiencing this in real life. The book is inspired by Sundee’s grandparents’ experiences in the 1950s in Spokane. Read more about the award-winning author on her website here. Check out her other books here.
Bonus–this is a book with a 13-year-old protagonist. (I love seeing more with this age. For a while, it felt like there was hardly any books for the 13 and 14 age ranges.)
When I started reading A Good Kind of Trouble (Balzer + Bray, 2019) by Lisa Moore Ramée, I thought, here we go again with another friends-changing-when-they-enter-Junior-High story. But it’s so much more than that. It’s about your own identity and how you don’t have to fit in a box. It’s about getting rid of assumptions. And standing up for what you believe in. And, yes, changing friendships.
Twelve-year-old Shayla wants to avoid trouble, but she discovers that sometimes you have to be trouble. Whether it’s in a relationship with friends or standing up to others, Shayla learns how to do the right thing.
I love the first line: “I’m allergic to trouble.” There’s strong seventh grade voice and humor in this story. This book is a Walter Dean Meyers Honor book, and can also help explain why Black Lives Matter.
Lisa is also the author of Something to Say (2020) and has a middle grade fantasy called Mapmaker coming in 2022. Read more about her here.
Other Words For Home (Balzer + Bray, 2019) by Jasmine Warga is a Newbery Honor book and a New York Times bestseller. It’s written in verse and is a story of bravery. I wish everyone could read it to help their understanding of refugees and immigrants.
Jude and her mother have to leave Syria because of the violence and come to America to live with Uncle Mazin in Cincinnati. It’s so hard to leave behind Baba and her older brother. She quickly learns that her English isn’t good as she thought. As her brother told her, she must “be brave.” At first she dreads her ESL class until she learns the others there understand how difficult it is to find the right words. But her cousin doesn’t want to associate with her at school. Finding a few friends helps Jude have the courage to follow her dreams and she tries out for the school play. Will being in the spotlight make her life better or worse? And what about the dangers her brother is in?
Jasmine has written another middle grade novel called The Shape of Thunder and has published three young adult novels. Read more about her here.